Photos by Hillary Ehlen
My name is Ashley Ham. I am a wedding and lifestyle photographer alongside my husband, Ryan Ham, at FloraPine Photography. We also have a blog called FloraPine Home where I have the opportunity to write, podcast and connect with people on a more personal level. Last month, Ry and I decided to participate in Plastic Free July. Now I am here to share what it was like to eliminate single-use plastic from our lives for 30 days.
We Went From This
Introducing Plastic Free July
Plastic Free July is a movement that encourages people to eliminate single-use plastic for the entire month of July. The first time Ry and I had ever been introduced to the concept was through a podcast about a year ago. We were immediately intrigued by the idea and fascinated by the information we were learning, so we started to slowly but surely make adjustments to how we use plastic.
When July came around this year, we knew that we wanted to dedicate one month to being consistent with not using single-use plastic items, and Plastic Free July is such a great time to do it because so many people around the world are joining in as well.
How We Went Plastic Free
Because going completely plastic free is a bit overwhelming, there are four target zones of single-use plastic that are really easy to eliminate. They are plastic bags, plastic bottles, single-use coffee cups and plastic straws. What’s been fun about focusing on these four zones is that it has made us more aware of other areas in our lifestyle where we tend to use more plastic than is needed.
Our Tips for Going Plastic Free
If you are interested in going plastic free, I would start with the four target zones: plastic bags, plastic bottles, single-use coffee cups, and plastic straws. Creating new habits will be a catalyst to a mindset where you are much more aware of your plastic use and areas where you can improve. The purpose of Plastic Free July is not only to reduce plastic usage, but most importantly, to create mindfulness.
Going zero-waste or plastic free is best built with small, daily habits repeated consistently. While it may seem overwhelming right away, reducing our plastic consumption can actually be a lot of fun and is a great way to take ownership of taking care of our environment and the cities we call home!
What Not to Use:
- Plastic bags
- Plastic bottles
- Single-use coffee cups
- Plastic straws
What to Use Instead:
- Reusable bags
- Reusable water bottles (preferably glass)
- Reusable coffee cups (we like KeepCups)
- Stainless steel straws
What It Was Really Like To Go Plastic Free
Overall, participating in Plastic Free July has been a wonderful experience for us. What has been surprising is how much plastic is in the things I consume every day. Whether it be the packaging that my fruit came in or the bottle that my shampoo comes in, it seems to be everywhere!
However, the experience has helped introduce positive and mindful habits in regards to how we view the environment and our contribution to it. For instance, If I want to get a coffee, I have to have my reuseable coffee cup with me. If I know that I’m going to be going out with friends later in the day, I make sure to pack my reuseable straw for my drink and a reuseable glass container for any potential leftovers from my meal. While these changes are small, they have made me more aware and more present in a society that is based heavily on convenience!
The reality is that plastic is sometimes unavoidable, but often times, we do have the choice to re-use or use more eco-friendly options. These adjustments require very little brain power. They say it takes 30 days to make a new habit, and since we have committed 30 days of going plastic free, a lot of these changes seem much more second nature now.